Christmas cactus is a beautiful plant. It produces awesome flowers that look fabulous in fancy plant pots. Most growers notice their Christmas cactus start dropping leaves. This problem is common when you do not give proper care to your plants.
The common causes of Christmas cactus dropping leaves are improper lighting, low or high temperature in grow room, Over-fertilization, frequent changes in room humidity, etc. Pests and diseases also trigger leaf dropping in Christmas plants.
In this post, I will explain all the causes behind Christmas cactus dropping leaves. You will also learn how to identify the cause and solve the problem.
Christmas cactus is naturally found in Brazilian forests. In the USA the Christmas cacti are mostly grown in controlled environments (greenhouses). Their growers control lighting, temperature, and humidity.
But when you bring it home you have different situations. Plants are suddenly exposed to different growing conditions. This triggers leaf dropping in Christmas cacti plants. This leaf drop is temporary.
The advice given in this post is applicable to all types of holiday cactus.
Potting soil Issues
The use of the wrong type of potting soil is the most common cause of leaf dropping in Christmas cactus plants. If the soil you use in plant pots is dense then you will definitely face leaf dropping problems.
But this problem does not come alone it invites many other issues like brown leaves and dark brown spots on the green leaves.
This means when your plant has brown spots and also dropping leaves then the possible cause is tightly packed soil particles.
The solution is simply changing the potting soil. Do not use garden soil to grow holiday cactus plants. Because garden soil becomes heavy when watered. And these plants need lightweight well-draining soil. That quickly drains every extra drop of water.
Soil Formula: 1 part potting soil + 2 parts peat moss + 1 part perlite.
Mix all these ingredients together and it will become a good porous soil with excellent draining properties.
You also need to check the bottom hole at the base of the plant pot. If it is absent, change the pot or you know to use a drill. Then make 1-inch-wide 2 holes at the bottom.
For best results use terracotta plant pots.
Clean your existing plant pot, fill it with new potting soil and plant your Christmas cacti in it. Then give some water to keep the soil moist.
Watering is the second most common reason because incorrect technique causes your Christmas cactus to drop beautiful leaves. You need to learn the correct watering technique to prevent water-related common problems. Soft plants like holiday cactus are more prone to underwater and overwatering diseases.
This is the situation when you give extra water to your plants and there is no draining hole to save them. Plants need a limited amount of water. Moreover, indoor growing plants need less water because they do not face direct sunlight.
The second reason is we have a comfortable indoor temperature. This keeps the plants hydrated.
But when you give extra water to your plants than they develop many diseases. They try to uptake the most water to save their roots. Because extra water causes root rot.
This extra water in their leaves and stems trigger leaf drop.
Overwatering also causes yellow leaves along with dropping leaves.
To save your Christmas cactus from overwatering you need to repot it in the new soil. Because the old soil becomes wet and may develop fungi. These fungi can destroy the plant roots and leaves. Therefore, you need new potting soil.
Also, make sure the plant pot you are using has a bottom draining hole. This hole at the base of the pot drains extra water out of the plant pot. This action prevents soil fungus and saves your plant from many unwanted problems.
After repotting it back in the pot do not give it water for few days.
Christmas cactus is succulent but this does not mean it does not need water. Where other cactus plants can survive long periods without water. Your Christmas cacti cannot go long. Less water means the plant is out of the required moisture that it needs to thrive.
This makes the Christmas plants dehydrated and due to lack of water, the plant starts dropping its leaves. At first, the leaf edges become dry and crispy then they fall off the plant.
Note: You need to know how to water Christmas cactus to save them from water-related problems.
You have two options to rehydrate your thirsty plants.
Pour water directly to the base of the plant by using a watering jug. Just make sure the water is going down to the root area. If stays on the top level then you need to loosen your soil. It is best to change such a type of tightly packed soil or add coarse sand to it.
The second solution is to take a tray filled with water and let your plant sit in it. This way the soil absorbs water from the bottom hole. This way the water quickly reaches the root zone of the plant.
Note: Plants need frequent watering applications on hot days of the summer season.
Christmas cactus plants need bright light to thrive. But they do not need direct sunlight. The light source can be LED grow light or indirect sunlight.
Remember that the direct sunrays are hot for this plant. They evaporate the water from plant stems and leaves. This causes the Christmas cactus to drop leaves. To encourage bloom, you need to give this plant 12 hours of darkness.
Install a sheer curtain on your sunny window to protect your plant from hot sun rays. For extra safety place the pot near the north-facing window.
When you see your Christmas cactus is dropping leaves due to extra bright light. Immediately change its place and move it to a less bright place.
You need to remove the yellow and brown crispy leaves. This way you can help your plants to divert their energy to produce more healthy leaves.
You cannot revive the plant if 70% of it gets burned by the hot sun rays.
Note: Low light does not cause dropping leaves it only affects the blooming time of the plant. Leggy or stretchy growth indicates low light conditions.
If you are sure that your plant is not suffering from the above common reasons then the temperature fluctuations may be the real cause.
Sudden hot to cold temperatures put negative temperature stress on plants. They become unable to decide the weather conditions. This weakens their immune systems and when this cycle of temperature fluctuation continuous. You will notice Christmas cactus dropping leaves.
When growing this plant indoors try to maintain the constant temperature in the grow room.
First of all, install a temperature monitor in the room to measure the current change in temperature. You need to set the min and max settings. Then the device will trigger an alarm and make records. You can check the data to know when the room temperature affects the plant.
Maintain the room temperature between 65 to 85 degrees F.
Change the place of the plant pot immediately to save its life.
Do not put it next to the front door or near AC Vents, Near Heating ducts. Maintain the room temperature steady and let the fresh air circulate in the room.
This condition is common with new growers because they think that by supplying more fertilizers their plant grows healthy and fast. But over-fertilization means slow death of plants.
When you see brown patches on plant leaves and they start falling off. This means your Christmas plant is suffering from extra fertilizers in the root zone.
When they start to build up in the root zone, they cut the water supply to the plant. Your Christmas cactus become nutrient deficient and dehydrated. Nutrient deficient plants start dropping their leaves and die within in few days if you do not fix the issue.
Now that you know the overfertilization symptoms and leaf dropping. Follow the below tips to recover your Christmas from salt build-up.
First of all, take the Christmas cactus out of its pot. Gently lose the soil and take the plant out without damaging the plant roots. Inspect the roots if they are damaged then cut the damaged part and plant it back in the pot.
But before that, you need to flush the soil. Take the basket that has small holes in the bottom then run water through it. You will see white salts along with water coming through the basket draining holes.
Root rot or Stem fungus
This is the condition when the growing plant has fungus in the root zone. The roots of the plant start to decompose. The Christmas cactus become unable to absorb the desired amount of nutrients and water from the soil.
If you do not fix the problem on time then this fungus can reach the main stem of the plant. Due to damaged stems and roots. Your Christmas cactus starts dropping its leaves. You cannot use fungicide on roots.
But for stem infection, you can use a fungicide to kill the rooting bacteria.
How to deal with Christmas plant root rot?
- To save your plant follow the below tips
- Take the plant out of its pot
- Inspect the roots, you need to remove the brown and dead part of the roots.
- Take the sharp shears and cut the infected part of the roots. At once you can cut 40% of the root ball.
- Then wash the plant pot with soap and dry it with a cloth.
- Then use fresh soil and plant your Christmas cactus plant back in the same pot.
Aphids, Mealybugs, and spider mites are the common pests of the Christmas cactus plant. These pests suck the sap of the plant and make plants nutrient deficient.
Again, the nutrient deficiencies cause many problems and one of them is dropping leaves.
To check the pest infestation, you need to inspect your plants on daily basis. If you are growing them in a clean hygienic place then inspect them once a week.
If they are growing close to other plants then you need to inspect them daily. If there is high humidity in the room then you also need to inspect the plants once in 2 to 3 days.
How to deal with Christmas Cactus pests?
To kill the pests, you need to follow the correct techniques. Because anything incorrect can kill your plants.
For example, there are many commercial pesticidal sprays for houseplants. But you cannot use them on your Christmas cactus leaves. They are very strong for this plant.
You need to take the isopropyl alcohol and cotton cloth to kill them manually. Pour some drops of rubbing alcohol on the cloth and wipe the leaves.
For served infection, you need to use insecticidal soap and wash your plants. These soaps are safe to use on all types of holiday cactus plants.
Note: Separate the infected plant from other healthy plants immediately and then give them treatment.
Christmas cactus dropping leaves and Solution guide ends here. For more info on houseplants visit our houseplant sections or write us. We will reply asap.